This is a very difficult topic for me to write about, but I feel it’s only fair for me to warn any of my readers who may be contemplating transitioning to a vegan lifestyle.
By now, you’ve probably seen the onslaught of blog posts and news articles on this topic, so I may as well share my own story.
The truth is, since becoming a vegan, very strange changes have been happening in my life, some of which have been extremely dangerous.
Since the winter of 2008, the rate of life-threatening incidents and paranormal activity I’ve been exposed to has increased dramatically. To date, I have been marooned on deserted islands no fewer than six times (which is remarkable, given that I live in the Midwest). I have been stranded at sea, not once, but twice. Once in 2009, in the Indian Ocean, after a narrow escape from Somali pirates, and once, off the eastern coast of Canada, in 1912 (more on that later).
When people ask me what the hardest thing is about being a vegan, I usually make something up about traveling, or football players waving sausage in my face in the dining halls in college. Because it’s just too painful to talk about that time in the Indian Ocean, when we were stuck for days and had to use toenail clippings and strands of hair to lure fish that we then had to bludgeon to death with our bare hands. Or worst of all, when I had to kill and eat one of my best friends from high school.
I forgive myself for that one, though. Because it was also self-defense. She would have done it too, and I know this because she was reaching for my throat right as I delivered a fatal blow with a sharp-edged conch shell. Three weeks under the menacing equatorial sun on a strip of sand the size of my college dorm room will dissolve even the most solid of friendships. It was cruelly ironic. She was a vegan too.
Fortunately, in the past year, things seem to be slowing down. It’s been at least six months since any major incident. I haven’t been forced to time travel in at least a year, which I’m very thankful for. Those of you who have been forced to time travel as a result of your personal decisions can attest that it is just hell. As I’m cleaning my apartment, getting ready to go home for the holidays, I’m still finding things, like the receipt for cremation services for the bear carcass that kept me alive in wilds of Siberia in 1870. When I finally made it back to Chicago, we had a memorial/ “welcome back” cookout at the Point where we scattered the ashes over Lake Michigan (I still need to put the pictures from that on Facebook, by the way; I really am the worst about that kind of thing).
My hope is that this is the beginning of the long period of recovery and then stability that vegans talk about. A lot of people ask how long it takes to transition to a vegan diet, and the answer seems to be about seven years. And honestly, it can’t come soon enough, for the inevitable bad luck to wear off, because once you have had to climb a tree, wait for a deer to walk by, jump on it, wrestle it to death, and eat it, you really don’t want to have to do it again.
Things are much easier now than they have been, but the truth is that they’re still not easy. Now that the more serious episodes are over, there are still minor issues to deal with. One of the worst is the selective illiteracy. If you’ve ever experienced selective illiteracy, you know that it is merciless. It can strike at any time. In my own case, it tends to be triggered by looking at packages of food. I find myself completely unable to read the labels. The other day, I sat down and cried in the middle of the aisle at the Treasure Island supermarket in Hyde Park because it took me a full fifteen minutes to discern whether the yellow box, was, in fact Fig Newtons, much less whether or not I could eat them.
I’ve also lost my ability to operate a stove. Completely. My stove is not broken, no; we tested this, and found out that my partner, Peter, was able to operate both his stove and mine, but I physically could not turn on either of them. If there weren’t so many people in the same boat as me, I would be sincerely embarrassed by this. I know that if I could only dump some tofu and some curry paste into a pot, I’d be ok. But on nights when Peter works late and I can’t call him to help me with the stove, I stare longingly at the cold blocks of tofu in the fridge, the hard pasta, the raw vegetables…and I do what I am forced to do over and over. I order Domino’s Pizza.
I have to admit that I sometimes wonder if I made a bad decision, if maybe the universe is trying to tell me something. But I’m determined to press on, even in spite of the possibility of being snatched back into pre-colonial South America again and forced to participate in another animal sacrifice (and the tribesmen have told me their names, but I can’t pronounce them to save my life, and they have no written language). There’s something that makes me want to keep going on this path, even though it’s a difficult one. Part of it is my love for animals, but in truth, it goes much deeper than that. What really helps me carry on, more than anything, is my love of being right and feeling like I’m better like than everyone else.